Conflict, Climate, and Culture: the Foundations of Karamoja.

This blog post was written by our Creative Communications & Events Officer, Megan Henderson.

Karamoja is located in Northeastern Uganda, close to the Kenyan border. Last week I visited the region for the first time to meet our local partners and visit Trust Groups in the area. It did not take long to understand their challenges. Karamoja is one of the most remote places in eastern Africa. Many people had to walk over 15 kilometers just to attend a group’s meeting. Illiteracy is at 97%, one of the highest rates in Uganda, and people are left poor and uneducated after years of conflict and violence.

Mount Moroto in Moroto, Uganda.

Mount Moroto in Moroto, Uganda.

The climate in Karamoja is harsh, in both wet and dry season. When it rains it pours, making roads unnavigable, flooding fields and destroying crops. During the harsh dry season livestock suffer leaving farmers without food or product to sell. In juxtaposition to the many challenges, each and every person I met echoed one sentiment: hope.

The people of Karamoja are vibrant and welcoming. They are immensely excited to be living in peace and unity together. They want to continue to move forward. They are dedicated and committed to learning literacy, numeracy, and business skills. Each of the four groups I visited wish to create better futures for their children. The women in Karamoja were left behind, often widowed during times of conflict and tension. Today they are thriving, starting their own businesses, and sending their savings to the bank so it is out of reach from their husbands. They are focused on independence, trust, and fellowship with other women in their groups.

Saint Steven’s Savings Group in Pian, Uganda.

Saint Steven’s Savings Group in Pian, Uganda.

The women have many professions: pig farmers, market sellers, shop keepers, fruit growers, bee-keepers. Through their variety of professions you can see their entrepreneurial spirit. They have big dreams, they just need a little more support to get there. Each group was eager to show off their skills. Many of them could write their names, and read their child’s school reports, after only five months of lessons. It was humbling to see our training groups writing their names, when only a few months ago they could not hold a piece of chalk at all. The capacity for knowledge and learning is overwhelming. These women had such pride in themselves, their businesses, and their groups.

Striving to create a better future can be difficult anywhere. In Karamoja it seems incredibly daunting, as markets are far from family homes, making businesses harder to maintain. In Moroto town things are looking better and better. New offices and structures are being built, and the area seems to be expanding at unprecedented speeds. Five Talents is not without our own hope. We are happy to support a marginalized community where every day women are becoming leaders, and building brighter futures. We want the people of Karamoja to continue growing and learning with us, as we discover more ways to help train them for success.

I was shocked at the openness of the communities we visited. Everywhere we travelled the people of Karamoja shouted “Alakara!” In Karamojong this means thank you.

I’d like to pass along their thanks to our supporters. Without you our work in Karamoja would not be possible.